IAN FERGUSON: Converting customers into recurring clients


Converting new customers into loyal and repeat clients should be the top priority of every business, whether large or small. Customer retention is key to the success of any enterprise.

This week’s column explores the critical reasons why the private sector must have strategies to develop a strong loyal customer base, but also ways to achieve this.

Here is why these initiatives matter:

  • It is much cheaper to keep an existing customer than to find a new one. Finding new clients can be expensive and consume valuable resources. Keeping a customer happy, and therefore guaranteeing future recurring business, is much cheaper.

  • Repeat customers spend more. Once a customer has bought from you and has a good experience, a level of trust has been established. The next time a customer goes to make a purchase, they are more likely to spend their money with someone they trust rather than risk the unknown.

  • Marketing costs are lower. It is easier to market products and promotions to existing customers. You already have their e-mail address or some other form of contact information, and they know and trust you.

  • Happy customers spread the word to their friends. Word of mouth has always been one of the best methods of advertising. Happy, loyal customers are your best marketers. People believe their friends when they endorse a product or service, so by keeping your customers delighted you are doing powerful organic marketing.

So, now that you are convinced, here as some simple ways to accomplish this objective:

Get to know your customer with useful data: Your most important decisions as a business owner should be based on facts, not guesswork. Looking closely at your business data can help you spot holes in customer service and opportunities to stand out from competitors.

Use your customer data to create a cohesive story about the buying experience. A customer journey map outlines different stages of a customer’s interaction with you. A detailed map captures the needs, motivations and thought processes of a key customer segment.

Create a Loyalty Programme: Loyalty programmes can be good for business. Successful loyalty programmes.......

  • Establish a method of ongoing communication with customers.

  • Give participants an incentive to bring in new customers.

  • Provide multiple tiers of engagement to reach different customer segments.

Offer Flexible Options: Consumers flock to businesses where they have a say in the customer experience. Remember the simple pleasure of mixing a one-of-a-kind beverage at soft drink dispensers? Flexible options are a shortcut to customer satisfaction.

Try to build flexibility into your services. Even though customers have similar needs and interests on the surface, small differences in personality influence what makes them happy. And, in many cases, it costs little or nothing extra to provide more options.

Provide Follow-Up Support: When your product has many uses or a learning curve, build follow-up support into the customer experience. Too often, customers abandon a product because they are not sure how to use it correctly. Educate your customers on how to use your product, so they are confident about getting results.

Instead of leaving your customers to scour the Internet in search of help, make it easy for them to get the exact answers they need. In some cases, you can include a thorough guide with the product or provide a URL for an online resource portal.

Go Above and Beyond With Customer Service: Spoil your customers rotten. Price matters, but it is far less important than good customer service. Surprise your customers with so much kindness and attention that they have nothing negative to say about your business.

Good service is a quality you have to integrate into your business from top to bottom. Be timely, be courteous, be transparent, and apologise when an unforeseen problem arises. Most people are understanding of simple mistakes, and the tension does not escalate until you become defensive or dismissive.

Do not assume your staff know the right way to respond to customers. Teach employees to be friendly, helpful and comfortable listening to customer complaints. Not everyone is good at managing stressful situations. You can reduce conflict by demonstrating the type of language and behaviour you want staff to use when speaking with customers.

Handing out discounts and freebies is not the only way to market your business and get repeat customers. Consumers always want or need something. People will continually patronise your business if you fulfill their wants and make their lives more satisfying.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organisations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@ coralwave.com.

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